A Look at the LCG Format

The recent announcement by Wizkids that the next two releases (“Warhammer 40,000: Battle for Ultramar” and “Avengers Infinity” – you can find our coverage of the press release HERE.) will be “non-blind product” has got the community speaking a great deal about the “LCG” model. But what is the “LCG” model, where did it come from and how does it differ?

Fantasy Flight Games

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While “non-blind” product is not a new concept in the tabletop gaming world; many seasoned members of the community are casting their eye over to Fantasy Flight Games and their range of non-blind card games and wondering if the distribution model of these games are the inspiration for this move. It’s with Fantasy Flight Games that the term “Living Card Game” (LCG for short) began as their label for this type of approach.

The terminology “Living Card Game” is actually a registered term by Fantasy Flight Games, so while the non-blind model exists in other similar forms with other games it’s exclusively an FFG term to describe it. That said: despite this it has become much more generically used by Gamers to describe non-blind collectible card games overall and has become pretty accepted jargon for the model as a whole.

LCG Logo

How Does it Work?

To quote Fantasy Flight Games from their website:

“A Living Card Game® (LCG®) offers an innovative fixed distribution method that breaks away from the traditional Collectible Card Game model. While LCGs still offer the same dynamic, expanding, and constantly evolving game play that makes CCGs so much fun, they do away with the deterrent of the blind-buy purchase model that has burned out so many players. The end result is an innovative mix that gives you the best of both worlds!”

What does that mean? It means that new expansions of cards are released at regular intervals (just like a Collectible game) however the cards in each pack are fixed – so you know exactly what you are getting.

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Each new set is released in batches over time referred to as “cycles” – for example; Star Wars LCG (my other Collectible game love) has six expansion packs (called “Force Packs”) in a “cycle” that are often thematically aligned somehow. For example, the “Hoth Cycle” focussed on the first act of “The Empire Strikes Back”, and the “Rogue Squadron Cycle” focussed on pilots & starships.

So… The Pros & Cons Then…

In the first instance: the deck construction & gameplay mechanics are the same as with any Collectible Card Game without “the chase” for that perfect, yet rare, card for your deck, so any well developed LCG offers the same gaming pleasures without the financial investment. There’s no need to plough through booster after booster searching desperately, sinking good money after bad, or try your hand at trading or buying on the secondary market. Some CCG rarity models (*cough* Star Wars Destiny *cough*) are structured in such a way that the rarest of cards are also the most powerful in terms of gameplay value in an attempt to further monetise the customer.

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I’m not entirely sure that was much of a problem with Dice Masters, there are, and have been, many common or starter set cards that have been highly desirable with solid competitive play value. However, the removal of “the chase” and the need to purchase boosters in high volumes clearly will appeal to those on limited budgets or building collections for families.

On the opposite side of this are those who enjoy the Collectible aspect of the game, who thrive off the buzz of cracking open feeds to see what they’ve “pulled” and like to trade. For these guys a non-blind model will make collecting a little more boring, and while they can still have their merry fun filing & sorting they will find a bit of the excitement diminished.

The rarity element brings me to my second point: when all cards are equally available then everyone is on an even competitive footing. We will all have access to the same card pool and so we won’t see that lucky bugger who managed to pull a Yuan Ti and a Cube ruck up and sweep up at major events.

That does, however, bring with it some concerns about the quality of competitive experience; if we all have access to the same cards it only takes a few winning lists to rise to the top and we’ll start to see the same teams over & over and creativity could die. We’ve already seen meta-dominating starter cards that were widely available do this (Bard & Guy Gardner spring to mind) and it could well happen again. No one can predict whether this will happen, but we have certainly seen evidence of the meta swinging in such a way in FFG’s LCGs. (Ask any Star Wars LCG about Imperial Tarkin decks)

FFGs LCGs

And what about the draft format? This is one of the cornerstones of the Dice Masters play experience that relies on the non-blind model. Drafting is hugely popular with many players and there’s nervousness about what this could mean for the future of drafting.

The announcement regarding non-blind product only references two upcoming releases, and gives no indication regarding non-blind product ongoing. We know that they’ve been experimenting with a “Draft Pack” distribution model lately (with Tomb of Annihilation and The Mighty Thor) so may find that future releases are specifically tailored to the Draft format.

That’s just conjecture – the simple fact of the matter is that for the next two releases Drafting cannot be done in its current set up.

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There you are then folks – hopefully if you weren’t too knowledgeable about the LCG format everyone’s been referencing as short-hand you are now.

What are your thoughts on this model? Is this a good or bad thing for the future of the game? Let us know in the comments below…

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2 responses to “A Look at the LCG Format

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